Here is a link to an editorial that I found interesting. It talks about the recent Pew Study that found that there were a significant number of evangelicals who didn’t think that Jesus is the only way.
I hope you enjoy. I did.
For a long time (read here centuries) communities of faith have revolved around three basic areas: belief, belonging, and behavior. Over the years these three areas have been placed in different order. Sometimes your beliefs have taken precedence, sometimes your behavior, sometimes just belonging to the group.
In my lifetime, I have seen groups that really believe that you need to believe a certain thing (most of the contact I have had with this group has also entailed some specific behaviors). Some have focused on a particular set of behaviors (but also with these there are particular beliefs that follow closely). The groups that I have resonated with more have been about belonging. They have been focused less on your beliefs and more on your participation in the group (they do have some ideal behavioral standards but generally different from the belief folks and not absolute).
After studying in seminary (and being a Presbynerd) I have come to the conclusion that all three (belief, belonging, and behavior) are vital to a life of faith.
I think that it is important that you belong to a community (I would say a community of faith here, but I am open to other types of community). I think that you need to understand what you believe and why. Those beliefs need to fit in some way with the community in which you belong or it is just going to cause constant struggle. (I believe struggle is good sometimes) Finally, if you have beliefs, know why you believe them, and are a part of some sort of community structure then your behavior should naturally follow.
I think the article points this out…but…if you say one thing and do another (i.e. hypocrisy) there is no way that you can have integrity, respect, or a leg to stand on in the wider world. You might think your great but no one else will. It would be like George Bush telling the Russian government they couldn’t invade another sovereign nation. Naturally, when people see Jim Bakker, or Jimmy Swaggart, or Ted Haggard, etc. etc. espouse these very difficult standards, condemn people who don’t follow them, and then fall flat on their face it is going to be hard to have any kind of authority.
I think people are tired of being told what to believe and how to act. They are looking for a place that provides them fulfillment and support. A place where the community’s beliefs and behavior coincide, (their words and actions are the same). I hope that in my ministry I can help to provide people a sense of belonging, so they can figure out what it is they believe, and adjust their behavior accordingly.
Anyway, I thought this was a good article…you should read it. I have currently lost my train of thought so…